By Chad Pergram
December 17, 2012
Hawaii Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, the Senate’s longest serving member, died Monday from respiratory complications. He was 88.
Inouye was a World War II veteran and a Medal of Honor recipient. He was hospitalized at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center at the time of his death.
Inouye joined the Senate in January 1963. As the senator of the majority party with the longest record of continuous service, Inouye held the post of Senate president pro tempore, putting him third in the line of presidential succession.
“He is certainly one of the giants of the Senate,” Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said Monday night on the chamber floor. “His commitment to our nation will never be surpassed.”
Inouye’s wife, Irene Hirano Inouye, and his son, Daniel Ken Inouye Jr., were at his side. Last rites were performed by Senate Chaplain Dr. Barry Black.
His story is the story of modern Hawaii. During his eight decades of public service, he helped build and shape the island state.
Inouye began his career in public service at 17 when he enlisted in the U.S. Army shortly after Imperial Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
He served with ‘E’ company of the 442 Regimental Combat Team, a group consisting entirely Americans with Japanese ancestry.
Inouye lost his arm charging a series of machine gun nests on a hill in San Terenzo, Italy, on April 21, 1945. His actions during that battle earned him the Medal of Honor.
Following the war he returned to Hawaii and married Margaret “Maggie” Awamura, and graduated from the University of Hawaii and the George Washington University School of Law.
After receiving his law degree, Inouye returned to Hawaii and worked as a deputy prosecuting attorney for the city and county of Honolulu.
He recognized the social and racial inequities of post-war Hawaii, and in 1954 was part of a Democratic revolution that took control of the Territorial Legislature.
Following Hawaii’s statehood in 1959, Inouye became its first congressman. He ran for the Senate in 1962 where he served for nearly nine consecutive terms.
Inouye spent his career building an enduring federal presence in Hawaii to ensure that the state would receive its fair share of federal resources.
He worked to expand the military’s presence on all major islands, stabilizing Pearl Harbor, building up the Pacific Missile Range and constructing a headquarters for the United States Pacific Command.
Inouye worked to build critical roads, expanded bus services statewide and secured the federal funds for the Honolulu Rail Transit project. He championed the indigenous rights of native Hawaiians and the return of Kahoolawe.
Inouye also fought for the rights and benefits for veterans. He supported major facilities and research assets at the University of Hawaii and long supported local agriculture and alternative-energy initiatives.
Inouye was always among the first to speak out against injustice whether interned Japanese Americans, Filipino World War II veterans, Native Americans and native Hawaiians.
A prominent player on the national stage, Inouye served as chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, the Senate Commerce Committee and was the first chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
After developing a reputation as a bipartisan workhorse who always would put country above party, he was asked by the Senate leadership to chair the special committee investigating the Iran Contra Affair. The post followed a successful tenure as a member of the Watergate Committee.
When asked in recent days how he wanted to be remembered, said, very simply, “I represented the people of Hawaii and this nation honestly and to the best of my ability. I think I did OK.”
His last words were, “Aloha.”
Inouye also is survived by daughter-in-law Jessica Inouye; grand-daughter Maggie and step-daughter Jennifer Hirano. He was preceded in death his first wife.
Inouye’s family asked to thank the Walter Reed doctors, nurses and staff for their extraordinary care.